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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Don't Use "You"

Everybody loves the pronoun "you" even when there is no "you" in the sentence, or the paragraph or the essay.


I love visiting my aunt's house in the Bahamas because when you are there you always relax and have a great time.


I love visiting my aunt's house in the Bahamas because when I am there I always relax and have a great time.

For the sake of clarity, consistent and accurate pronouns are a must...


  1. hi,
    Just making my daily visit and wanted to let you know that there is an award for you on Secondary Roads today. In my editing days, I saw a lot of that kind of error. Another common variant is mixing "you" or "I" and "we."
    -- Chuck

  2. Thank you for pointing out this all too common error. It's a struggle to make students realize such a mistake when they've heard it all their lives!

  3. Couldn't this use of "you" be expressing that, following your example, everybody can relax, have fun, etc. there? I understand that in your example it doesn´t sound just right, but that use of "you" is also seen (heard and even read) in other languages. It just a USE of the language, and use cannot be correct or incorrect, it's the "parole". I definitely thing that is something to be looked at.

  4. Hi Jane

    You raise some good points. However, just because you hear the words "wanna" and "gonna", just to give an example, does not mean they are appropriate or part of Standard American English. Pronoun shift errors occur all the time in speech and in writing and therefore it creates confusion and inconsistency. "You" refers to the reader or the listener; it is not a generic term for "mankind" or people in general. The generic pronoun in that case would be the indefinite pronoun "one." If you wish to refer to people in general, then use "one" or any of the other indefinite pronouns as needed.

    "Sounds good" is no replacement for the rules of Standard American English.

    I would be curious to see how "you" is used in other languages-both written and spoken and what the rules are... I hope you share this info with us. Thanks so much for stopping by.


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